Upon Arrival in Ulaanbaatar (December 2021)

This is a largely information post about what arriving at UBN Airport in Ulaanbaatar with Covid Protocols was like for our American family of three with current visas but outdated registration cards. If you’re planning a trip to Mongolia through UB, I’m happy to answer any questions about the process as long as you know the process probably changes frequently.

Arriving

We arrived in UB at around 7:15 a.m. We left the airport around 10:15 a.m. Arriving was a 3 hour process with 4 basic steps and a lot of waiting and filling out of forms.

Step #1 Deplane & Health Screening

On the plane we were given a form to fill out about where we’d been, if we’d had Covid or the vaccine, symptoms, contact information, etc. I filled one out for each member of our family. We deplaned and waited in a line after passing temperature-reading cameras to hand in our form. We were asked a couple of questions then released to the next line for Covid testing.

Initial Health Screening, Submitting Form #1

Step #2 Covid Testing

After waiting in this line, we gave one of the people at the table the second form we filled out on the plane with some overlapping information from the first form. They then entered all this data into an app on a phone and printed us a receipt to take to the Covid testers. Our 11 year old was given an oral swab and then both my husband and I had brains-crape nasal swabs in both nostrils. Then we were given another form which asked for info contained in the first two forms but not exactly the same as either. We were told to wait 20 minutes before leaving the room.

I began filling out the forms for each of us while my husband waited in line to leave the room. We guessed it would take about 20 minutes for us to make it through the line; we were correct. The people at the door at the end of that line were checking times on this form and only allowing people through who had been waiting 20 minutes. As you left, the collected this form. The line was clogged, however, with people who hadn’t waited 20 minutes and we had to kindly elbow our way through the congestion.

Submitting Form #2 & Covid Tests
Filling out form #3 You can see the luggage pick up area in the back
The line out of the Covid testing area into Passport Control

Step #3 Passport Control

There were very few foreigners on the plane so there was no wait at the foreigner kiosk. It appeared the Mongolian line was moving quite quickly.

We spent a while at Passport Control. It could be because my husband’s student visa is only good through March (it shouldn’t be difficult to renew), my daughter’s visa is in her old passport (which we had with us), and/or our residency cards were out of date (because we had been out of the country, unable to get back, because of Covid). Either way, reinforcements were called in from the back and, by the looks of the uniforms, we had 4 levels of Immigration staff deciding our fate. Ultimately, they let us in. We spent a while here, but it turns out that didn’t really matter because our longest wait was for luggage.

We just learned (about 50 hours after landing but 47 after making it through Passport Control) that the currently regulation is to register online within 48 hours rather than in person within 7 days so my husband is doing that now. I’m sure it will be close enough considering it’s a weekend now.

Step #4: Retrieving Luggage

First, let me acknowledge that we checked 9 pieces of luggage. That’s a lot. But it still took us about an hour to gather all of it (an hour of waiting after the time we’d spent in Steps 1-3). There were many people who had less luggage than us were also waiting. So it took over 2 hours to get all the luggage off of the plane into the airport. The luggage carts were free to use though, so that was nice getting through security with 9 checked bags, 3 carry-ons, and our backpacks.

After retrieving our luggage, there was one line where everyone had to go through a security screening (like you normally do when entering the airport) where our carry-ons were checked and we we wanded. We did not have to have our luggage screened (maybe luggage was pre-screened and that’s why it took so long to get to us). The signs and staffing made it look like there were separate lines for those declaring good and those not declaring goods…but there was only one line. This process took a while.

Leaving!

The exit from the baggage area is very similar to the old airport. So we walked out to a sea of people were offered a ride by several taxi drivers but found our friend who had waken up entirely too early to pick us up. An hour and 15 minutes later we were home. The new airport is significantly further out than the old one was so I was surprised that it didn’t take us even longer considering it was now mid-morning and traffic was…traffic.

The lovely view on the way home from the airport

The end. It is good to be home.

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